MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University offensive line is anchored by All-Big 12 talents Colton McKivitz at left tackle and Josh Sills at right guard, and for the most part the rest of the line — the starters, for now at least — have become clear.
What first-year WVU offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Matt Moore aims to do now is build some depth behind that first group. He doesn’t need anything flashy from his players, just consistent.
“Being an excellent o-lineman is about [being] mundane — it’s just boring,” Moore said. “You look at some of the greatest O-linemen to ever play, and they’re boring because it’s all about just taking the same steps, same footwork, same pad level — everything is the same. I talk to my guys all the time about how it’s not all about how good your great is or how great your great is, it’s about how bad is your worst going to be below par? If your worst is not that bad and your good is not great, you can still be a consistent O-lineman in this league. I preach to them about, ‘Hey, if you have a bad day, make sure it’s not a terrible day. if you make a bad play, make sure it’s not a terrible play.’”
In addition to McKivitz and Sills, senior Kelby Wickline has been manning the right tackle spot with redshirt junior Chase Behrndt taking the bulk of the reps at center. Redshirt junior Michael Brown has been the top player at left guard so far, but he is a player who not only redshirted last season after appearing in just four games, but also never played high school ball and is extremely short on live-game football experience.
Finding a player to give Brown a break from time to time is high on Moore’s priority list at the moment.
“We’ve got to develop a guy behind [Brown] that can come in and help him,” Moore said. “It’s not that he can’t do it, I’m just afraid that he loses his focus when he gets really, really tired.
Redshirt freshman James Gmiter is one name Moore floated as a possibility to take on that role for the Mountaineers. Gmiter was one of the top linemen in Pennsylvania coming out of Bethel Park High two seasons ago, but was more known for his work on the defensive side of the ball. Even last season at WVU, he was a defensive lineman. Gmiter made the switch to offense during the spring, and Moore hopes he can find a way to get him into the mix.
“[James] Gmiter — he’s one of the most explosive, strongest guys in the program, but he has always been a d-lineman,” Moore said. “He played a little bit of O-line in high school, but it wasn’t like the true, dedicated O-line. He’s just now going into practice, what, No. 17 of ever being an O-lineman, and he’s really come along. He had a good summer.”
Another name that keeps coming up in the early days of WVU’s preseason camp is that of freshman Brandon Yates, who only arrived in Morgantown last week just before the start of camp.
Yates is listed at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds but could be bigger than that. He hasn’t been in Morgantown long, but he has started to make an impression on some of the WVU veterans.
“Yates came in two days ago and he is obviously a large human being,” McKivitz said Sunday. “He is going to add some depth at the tackle position. He’s been working with us in our “Gold” group as they call it, so he has been getting some reps.
McKivitz said he thinks new additions to the offensive line like Yates and Gmiter are going to pay off for the Mountaineers in 2019, but it could take some time.
“We’re moving some guys around inside and trying to get some pieces moved around,” McKivitz said. “I think there is going to be some good depth, but we’re still working on it. The additions of Yates and a couple of other guys is going to be good.”